Comparing the World’s Best Judicial Systems

Who Has the Best Judicial System?

The best judicial systems have high standards of transparency, judicial independence and fighting corruption. It also helps if citizens trust the system and feel safe when they are involved in legal proceedings.

This list of the world’s best judicial systems was determined based on criteria such as timeframes for legal resolutions, the efficiency of judicial interpretation and availability of judicial officers.


In Denmark, the judicial system is fully independent from the legislative and executive branches of the country’s government. The judiciary is a highly respected institution in Denmark with most citizens trusting it. In addition, the judiciary is transparent and accessible to the public. For example, the Supreme Court’s “today section” on its website makes it easy for citizens to access information about the Supreme Court’s decisions and activities.

The judicial system also has many checks and balances. The Parliamentary Ombudsman has the right to examine Parliament’s administration of its legislative and executive powers, while the Court of Indictment and Revision can investigate complaints about judges and legal practitioners. In 2020, criminal law cases were solved in approximately 64 days, which is below the EU median of 139 days.


Norway’s judicial system has undergone substantial structural and organisational changes in recent decades, amplifying many of its Nordic legal-cultural hallmarks. These include a strong preference for general courts over special ones and a search for pragmatic solutions. This is evident in the widespread use of out-of-court dispute resolution processes such as consumer dispute resolution and victim-offender mediation.

A significant characteristic of the Norwegian justice system is that it is independent from both the legislative and executive branches of the government. Its courts have wide authority over civil disputes and criminal matters, while administrative cases are handled by local district and regional courts. The Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the entire country. In cases before the Supreme Court, there is no immediate presentation of evidence and testimony from witnesses or parties, and the proceedings are conducted in writing.


Finland has a highly developed judicial system. The legal aid system ensures that citizens are able to access free legal representation in courts. The system is based on the principle of equality and respect for citizens. It is also transparent and free from corruption.

The Finnish constitution guarantees the independence of the judiciary. It establishes the structure of the courts and outlines a number of specific rights for citizens. The constitution also defines the responsibilities of the judiciary.

The judicial system consists of district courts (karajaoikeus) that are judged by the chief judge and assistants and municipal or rural district courts. Court decisions can be appealed to the courts of appeal or the Supreme Court. Mediation is available for civil and criminal cases, significantly reducing legal costs.


The Swedish judicial system is comprised of a number of government agencies that are charged with upholding security and the rule of law within Sweden. These agencies include police and law enforcement, prosecutors, courts, prisons, and other correctional services.

Like Denmark, Sweden has a dual court structure with special courts for certain substantive topics such as labour, environmental etc. The decision of these specialized courts cannot be reviewed by general courts.

Another unique feature of the Swedish legal system is that lay judges have been a part of the justice system for over a thousand years. This is in contrast to most civil law countries that have shifted away from this practice.


The Netherlands’ judicial system is a three-tiered process that begins with a district court. The country has 11 district courts, four courts of appeal and the Supreme Court.

Civil procedure involves disputes between private individuals and companies while criminal proceedings deal with offences that harm society as a whole. The Netherlands is renowned for its lenient treatment of offenders, but it also has strict laws.

The Dutch government is working to make the legal system more accessible by simplifying procedures for straightforward civil disputes. They are also introducing new legislation to help combat the proliferation of false documents and money laundering. The country’s legal system has high tribunal standards and Dutch judges can be relied upon to apply established law, based on precedents set by previous cases.

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The Role of the Judicial Branch in a Country’s Legal System.

What’s Judicial Branch?

The judicial branch is the court system in a country. The Supreme Court is the highest federal court and hears appeals in cases that challenge laws or actions passed by Congress. The Constitution requires that lower courts follow Supreme Court precedent.

The Supreme Court and other district, circuit and specialized courts interpret laws and resolve disputes. This branch operates separately from the executive and legislative branches, but works with them.


Courts hear legal cases and decide them based on law. They are a check on the power of legislative and executive branches, and judges’ decisions are usually based on facts rather than politics.

The judiciary also includes appellate courts that review the fairness of lower-level courts’ decisions. These are normally staffed by multiple judges, unlike trial courts which are presided over by a single judge.

Constitutions set up different methods for selecting judges, with some countries holding elections while others appoint them (with or without Senate confirmation). A policy circle can bring together people who have an interest in judicial selection to develop ideas and take action. This can include bringing together experts who can discuss qualifications for judging, methods of selecting judges and pros and cons of different methods. This is particularly important when there are competing proposals for reform. Judges’ institutional legitimacy depends on their perceived impartiality and that their decisions are rooted in law, not politics and ideology.


Judges are public officials vested with the power to hear and decide legal matters brought before a court of law. They often write opinions or judgments on cases, which establish legal precedent and guide lower courts in similar situations. Judges are also tasked with overseeing trial proceedings and ensuring that procedures are followed.

Judgeships are often appointed rather than elected. At the federal level, the Constitution grants the president the power to appoint judges to courts inferior to the Supreme Court (district and appellate courts), with Senate confirmation.

The qualifications to become a judge vary considerably, even within a country. A rural justice of the peace—often untrained in the law, sitting alone in a makeshift courtroom in everyday work clothes and collecting small fees or a pittance for salary to try a caseload full of routine traffic cases—barely resembles the black-robed justices of the United States Supreme Court. Many different methods for selecting judges have been used, with varying degrees of success.

Judicial review

Judicial review is the principle that courts can overturn laws passed by legislatures if they believe they are unconstitutional. This is an important part of our constitutional democracy, and it allows the Supreme Court to play a powerful role in ensuring that other branches of government obey the Constitution.

Although it is not explicitly stated in the United States Constitution, judicial review is a central concept of our governmental system. The Constitution guarantees that the Supreme Court has the power to review laws and executive actions by other governmental bodies, to make sure they comply with the constitution.

This judicial review is not just about whether or not the law is constitutional; it also involves whether the decision-maker has the legal authority to make that particular decision. The Supreme Court is able to strike down laws if they believe they are illegal, procedurally unfair, or irrational. However, it is important to note that judicial review must be done with caution in order not to violate the principle of Separation of Powers.

Public opinion

Many people believe that judges should be shielded from outside pressures and allowed to make decisions based upon their reading of the law. However, most Americans also believe that judges are influenced by partisan considerations at least somewhat.

The Constitution requires a national Supreme Court, but leaves it to Congress to determine the number of justices and how to establish courts inferior to it (such as district and appellate courts). It gives the President power to appoint federal judges with Senate confirmation. It also gives states the choice of whether to hold elections for judges or choose them through a merit system, where a panel of appointed lawyers and nonlawyers makes judicial nominations.

The judicial branch can build public confidence by faithfully performing its duties, and by effectively carrying out its internal oversight, review and governance responsibilities. It can also earn public trust and confidence by ensuring scrupulous adherence to established ethical standards. People may hold opinions about a court based on its decisions or how it conducts itself in the midst of a controversy.

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Judicial Branch: Interpreting and Applying Laws

The Judicial Branch of the Federal Government

More than 600 judges sit on federal district courts, and nine justices make up the Supreme Court. Presidents nominate and Senate confirm judges, who serve for life.

The Constitution doesn’t specify how many justices there should be. Throughout history, Congress has changed the number, fluctuating between five and ten, before settling on nine with the Judiciary Act of 1869.

The Judicial Branch

The judicial branch of the federal government interprets and applies laws, acting as a check on the executive and legislative branches. It sets legal precedents that shape American society. Judges and justices are selected by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and they have lifetime appointments that cannot be reduced during their tenure.

The Constitution doesn’t go into much detail about the structure of the judiciary, leaving Congress to decide the number of Supreme Court Justices and how the rest of the federal courts should be organized. During the Civil War, Congress tried to shrink SCOTUS down to six judges so that a future President wouldn’t be able to add more, but the number was restored to nine in 1869.

The United States has a unique system of federal courts that includes district courts, 13 circuit courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court handles all appeals from lower courts and some cases of national significance.


There are more than 600 judges on district courts, almost 200 judges on appeals courts, and nine justices who make up the Supreme Court. When a vacancy occurs, the president nominates someone to the post. The nominee goes through a vetting process, which may include a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Presidents get recommendations from a number of sources, including the Department of Justice, sitting judges and justices, members of Congress, and interest groups.

The nine Justices hear cases that challenge the Constitution, interpret legislation, protect civil rights, and resolve disputes between states or between the federal government and private parties. In addition to legal briefs submitted by attorneys, the Justices typically listen to oral arguments in which each side has 30 minutes to present their case before the Justices ask questions. The Justices then meet in private to discuss the case and issue a decision. These decisions often shape policy as profoundly as any passed by Congress or enacted by the executive branch.


The Justices of the Supreme Court release their decisions along with detailed explanations of why they voted the way that they did. Justices whose point of view did not prevail may also write a separate dissenting opinion.

In some cases, Justices who agree with the result but reach different conclusions for their own reasons present a concurring opinion. This can happen when there is a tie vote or when a Justice recuses herself from a case and another Justice steps in to hear the case.

While Presidents are more likely to choose judges who share their political ideology, partisan bias is still prevalent in the Court. In fact, the majority of Justices are appointed by a president of their own party, and this makes for a biased Court. Changing the way Justices are selected would help reduce partisanship on the Supreme Court. One popular reform option is to impose term limits and regularize appointments. This would make it more difficult for any one president to dominate the Court for multiple terms.


The Supreme Court receives thousands of petitions for cases each year, but it only takes a small number of them. If four Justices feel a case is important enough to consider, they issue a writ of certiorari—a legal order asking lower courts to send the Court the case records.

The Justices review the papers, listen to arguments from the parties in the case, and then decide how to rule. They typically write a majority opinion explaining their decision, and the Justices who disagree release a dissenting opinion.

The justices also sometimes write separate concurring opinions—thoughtful addendums to the majority’s decision. Most Justices were lawyers before becoming judges, and many attended Harvard Law School. Once a Justice is elected, his or her tenure is for life—as long as they maintain good behavior and do not resign. Historically, no sitting Justice has ever been impeached.

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The Subtitute Title: Understanding the Judicial System and Court Process

The Judicial System Lesson Plan

When people think of courtrooms, they may picture TV shows with someone being tried for a crime or being sued for owing money. But there is more to our court system than these two kinds of cases.

Use these resources to teach students about the judicial branch of government. Students can also practice essential literacy skills with these court-related activities.

The Judiciary Act of 1789

The Constitution called on Congress to “ordain and establish” a federal court system, but it did not include specifics about how many courts to create or their structure. One of the first orders of business for the new Senate, dominated by Federalists seeking a strong national government and Anti-Federalists defending state rights, was to draft legislation that would shape the nation’s judicial system.

The Judiciary Act of 1789 established the Supreme Court, the Circuit Courts and District Courts. The Act specified how many justices should be on the Supreme Court and provided for the creation of lower courts by region throughout the country. The Justices were required to “ride circuit,” visiting each court on a regular basis and presiding over them for a few weeks at a time.

The Act also established the roles of the Clerk of Court, United States Attorney and United States Marshals. These positions remain in place today, and the three-tiered structure of the federal court system remains unchanged.

The Federal Court System

The Constitution outlines the power and role of our federal courts. While the judicial branch operates separately from the legislative and executive branches, our government’s three elected branches often work together to meet the needs of the nation.

Congress established 94 district level trial courts and 13 circuit courts (intermediate appellate courts) in addition to the United States Supreme Court, which is the highest level of court. These courts are located throughout the country.

The Supreme Court’s role is to interpret federal laws and resolve disputes over their constitutionality, while lower level courts apply the law to specific cases. Judges and justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate, and receive lifetime tenure unless removed from office through impeachment. Congress has the authority to create other specialized and lesser federal courts, such as those dealing with international trade, taxation, admiralty law, and veterans’ claims. These courts have limited jurisdictions and cannot review other decisions made by the Supreme Court.

The United States Supreme Court

The Supreme Court, the highest authority in the country’s judicial system, interprets the Constitution and its amendments. It reviews and overturns decisions from lower courts. It also has original jurisdiction in cases involving ambassadors and disputes between states.

In addition, the Supreme Court is responsible for filling vacancies on the court. The President nominates candidates to be justices and the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing where the nominee answers questions from senators. The Constitution sets a maximum number of justices on the Supreme Court, which has traditionally been nine.

Using the Constitution Explained video series, this lesson plan introduces learners to different levels of government, and teaches them how a case works its way through a court. It also guides students through an evaluation of news articles from well-known newspapers.

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